This is from the UK Telegraph.
Yeonmi was born on October 4 1993 in Hyesan, a notoriously cold river port along North Korea’s 850-mile northern border with China. The following year, on July 8, Kim Il-sung, the country’s 82-year-old founder and ‘Great Leader’, died of a heart attack. Hopes that he might have been ready to gradually open North Korea to the world evaporated as his son Kim Jong-il took power and set about transforming the hermit nation into a member of George W Bush’s notorious ‘axis of evil’.
Meanwhile, the economy was collapsing and the Great Famine, which would eventually claim up to 2.5 million lives, according to Andrew Natsios, the former head of USAID, was beginning to take hold. As Barbara Demick describes in Nothing to Envy, her definitive book on the period, those too young, too poor or too honest to find food quickly died. ‘The killer targets the most innocent, the people who would never steal food, lie, cheat, break the law or betray a friend.’
[...]Initially shielded from the effects of the famine, Yeonmi’s world started to disintegrate when, in 2002, her father was arrested for illegal trading. ‘Everything changed,’ she recalls. Yeonmi’s father was taken to a prison near Pyongyang and given a 17-year sentence. Her mother visited him once but that was enough to see the toll that the brutal torture had taken on her husband. He was beaten. Guards placed sticks between his fingers and crunched them together. He was made to sit in excruciating stress positions for interminable periods. Prisoners were deprived of water and food. ‘The environment was crazy. So many bugs and lice,’ Yeonmi says. ‘They treated them like animals. He was a really brilliant man. He was my hero, and the country just beat him. I couldn’t believe it.’
Yeonmi’s father was luckier than many North Koreans who were spirited off to the country’s Soviet-style gulags, never to return. According to a Human Rights Watch report in January this year, up to 120,000 political prisoners, among them children, are currently being held in secretive labour camps known in Korean as the kwan-li-so. Torture including ‘sleep deprivation, beatings with iron rods or sticks, kicking and slapping, and enforced sitting or standing for hours’, is routine, the group found.
After three years Yeonmi’s father managed to bribe his way out of jail. But by then he had been diagnosed with colon cancer. When Yeonmi saw him on his release, the once strapping figure had been transformed into a ghost of a man. ‘He had changed so much. He was so small. He spoke differently. I couldn’t believe it was my father,’ she says.
[...][O]n the night of March 30 2007, Yeonmi and her mother made their way towards the border with the help of a people smuggler. Yeonmi’s father stayed behind, to minimise the risks. They crossed three mountains and finally came to a frozen river that separated the two countries. It was desperately cold, Yeonmi says, and she remembers feeling terrified that the ice beneath them would give. But they eventually made it to the other side. On dry land, they ran. ‘I ran so fast. The only thing I could think was that I could get shot. I ran and ran and ran.’
The rest of the article tells the terrifying story of how Yeonmi and her family escaped to South Korea.
I read this article and it really caused me to think a lot about what happens when we are not careful about who we vote for. North Korea is an officially atheist and communist regime. There is no public expression of Christian convictions there, nor is there any free market capitalism. That probably sounds like a great idea to many of the people in this country who have the same anti-Christian, anti-capitalist views. But it doesn’t sound like a good idea to me.